Morrisons becomes the latest firm to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff in isolation

By Isabella Boneham
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 9:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 9:45 am
Morrisons supermarket in UK
Morrisons supermarket in UK

Morrisons has confirmed it will cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Currently, workers at Morrisons who are unjabbed and have to self-isolate when negative, get statutory sick pay of £96.35 a week.

Staff that test positive for Covid and have to isolate get full sick pay regardless of whether they have had the vaccine or not.

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What is Morrison’s new policy?

If NHS Test and Trace informs an unvaccinated member of staff that they have been exposed to Covid-19, they will only get statutory sick pay when they isolate. Statutory sick pay is the legal minimum.

In England, unvaccinated people must isolate for 10 days if they come into close contact with a Covid-positive person - even if they test negative themselves.

However, whether you are vaccinated or not, any Morrisons employee who tests positive is paid full sick pay while they isolate.

Morrisons said its new policy only applies to workers who are unvaccinated by choice, and every member of staff is treated on a case-by-case basis.

Workers who cannot get jabbed for medical reasons are not obliged to isolate in England.

Why is the new policy being enforced?

The policy was first mentioned by Morrisons chief executive Dave Potts in a conference call with investors in September, the Guardian reported.

It was said the policy was part of a plan to tackle the "biblical costs" of dealing with the pandemic.

The move was intended to encourage workers to get the vaccine, the newspaper said.

The requirement for fully-vaccinated workers to isolate when exposed to Covid was dropped in England in August.

However, this caused unvaccinated workers being more likely to take time off compared to their colleagues who were vaccinated - even when they were not infected with the virus.

Companies are tightening their sick pay rules due to mass staff absences, especially since the arrival of the more infectious Omicron variant.

What other companies have changed their policy?

In the last few weeks Ikea, Next and Ocado announced they have changed their policy on unvaccinated staff who have been exposed to the virus.

At Wessex Water sick pay cuts will also be enforced, and in the US, several major companies have started penalising unvaccinated staff.

Currently, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda still pay unvaccinated workers full company sick pay when they are self-isolating.

What’s been said about the policy?

Beth Hale, partner at employment law firm C M Murray, argued discrimination claims on this new sick pay policy were unlikely to succeed as being opposed to the vaccination programme was "unlikely to be a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act."

She said: "While the policy may have a disproportionate impact on those from certain ethnic or religious groups (which could give rise to a claim for indirect discrimination), an employer may well be able to justify the policy on the basis of their legitimate business needs."

Employers that are struggling with staff absences because of large case numbers, makes it seem “reasonable” that they want to take these steps to encourage their employees to get vaccinated, she added.

But to avoid staff relations issues, she recommended employers be "careful that policies are communicated carefully and sensitively."

A version of this article originally appeared on NationalWorld.com